How do career development programs empower female frontline workers and improve retention rates?

by | Nov 22, 2022

When female frontline workers see a path to advancement, they are more likely to stay.

Nearly two-thirds of frontline workers are women, and more than one-third live in low-income families. Sixty-five percent of female frontline workers are unaware or unsure of how to achieve career success. To move beyond these statistics, companies need to identify roadblocks that prevent them from retaining and leveraging more women in their workforce. Then they need to apply that awareness to make systematic, cascading changes in their organization and business strategies.

In Skillsoft’s 2021 Women in Tech Report, a multi-national survey of women who work in technology sectors, nearly 86% of those surveyed ranked professional development and employee training opportunities as “very” or “extremely” important. While most respondents expressed a desire for these opportunities, only 42% of organizations offer this as an employee benefit.

A recent report from McKinsey & Company found that the lack of career development programs or career advancement within a company surpassed salary as the leading reason frontline employees quit their jobs. Pathstream’s programs with Amazon saw an increase in job applicants and increased the tenure of workers staying at Amazon by 208% compared to non-participating Amazon warehouse employees.

The 2020s have introduced a complete disruption of workforce needs. Companies struggling to retain and find talent while addressing the global digital skills shortage are now facing the “Great Breakup.” Women are leaving their companies because they are overworked, underpaid, and lack avenues for career growth. Companies lack clear career development programs for employees.

According to a McKinsey study, 35% of white women said they plan to leave their jobs in the next three to six months. The rate jumps to 46% for women of color.  Career prospects worsen for millions of frontline employees, who are disproportionately women and people of color.

Companies have a long way to go to achieve gender equity. But, there is one lever employers can pull that offers women access to equitable career growth opportunities while also addressing workforce disruptors like critical skill gaps and talent shortages. It is inexpensive compared to the cost of turnover and something the frontline workforce wants: professional development. 

upskilling and reskilling

3 recommendations to increase career mobility for women and improve retention rates 

1. Prioritize upskilling programs, especially for frontline employees. 

Upskilling frontline workers improves a company’s top and bottom lines. It can be up to 10 times cheaper to upskill a current employee than to recruit, hire, and onboard a new person. Offering upskilling opportunities or talent development programs to frontline employees helps a company fill internal vacancies. Once an employee has completed an educational program and can demonstrate competency in new skills, they can take on new critical roles.

Companies can take advantage of untapped female talent and ensure that women aren’t disproportionately losing jobs. In addition, women who complete targeted upskilling programs are better positioned to advance their careers. Women make up over 60% of Pathstream’s learners, and on average they receive two new career opportunities after completing our certificate programs.

2. Use technology to uncover diverse talent. 

Preconceived notions and biases have hindered career advancement for too long and pushed diverse talent out of companies. Progressive HR leaders are using technology to retain, bring back, and hire more women across the organization. 

Your most diverse employees often work in frontline desk roles such as customer service representatives, bank tellers, or insurance claim assistants. Career mobility platforms integrate with applicant tracking and employee reporting systems to show business leaders the hidden, transferable skills within their organizations in real time. It allows employers to identify the strengths of each pipeline by demographics and implement precise upskilling and talent development strategies. 

Frontline employees who complete upskilling programs can build internal resumes that Human Resource teams can share with hiring managers. Talent pipeline tools and data will encourage management to think beyond traditional talent acquisition methods and emphasize the importance of nurturing and promoting diverse talent to create a robust DEIB culture. 

3. Make professional development affordable for all. 

Truly democratizing access to career advancement means covering the costs of different types of professional development such as education benefits, tuition assistance policies, certificate programs, or career coaching. 

Large employers like Starbucks, McDonald’s, PepsiCo, and Dollar General are just a handful of enterprises that have ramped up their investment in education benefits. They’ve prioritized tuition assistance or tuition reimbursement for their frontline workers who make up the vast majority of their national workforce.

In 2021, Amazon began working with Pathstream to provide warehouse workers access to a data analytics program to facilitate career advancement into data analyst positions. They subsequently expanded their engagement with Pathstream to include a sales operations program in 2022. The program increased retention rates and improved digital skill proficiencies by 111% among employees enrolled in our programs. Participating employees reported countless ways in which they were able to apply the concepts they learned immediately in their current roles throughout the program. 

Women and minorities made up over 70% of program participants. Upon program completion, participants reported increased self-confidence and career clarity. These individuals transitioned to various analytics-related roles, including Process Analyst, Business Analyst, Data Analyst, Human Resource analytics, and Operations Manager. 

Click here for seven elements of the most successful education benefits programs.

career development programs

At Pathstream, we help employees gain valuable skills and prepare them for promotions. This helps diversify mid-career workers at organizations where there is often a diversity cliff.

Pathstream is a frontline career mobility platform that transforms today’s frontline workers into tomorrow’s future-ready talent. 

We combine skill-driven career pathing, personalized coaching, and digital upskilling to help frontline employees get ready for the digital future – all in one seamless location.  We’ve helped 20+ Fortune 500 companies including Amazon, Walmart, JP Morgan, and Chipotle reduce their turnover costs by as much as $30k per employee. We can help engage your employees and transform your frontline workforce into the tech talent needed to grow your business. 

When partnered with Pathstream employers can:

  • Curate a catalog of education offerings customized to meet your organization’s recruiting, retention, and capability enhancement goals
  • Immediately increase the volume and quality of job applications with our recruitment assets and campaign support
  • Leverage our in-depth analytics to monitor employee engagement and measure the ROI of your education benefits portfolio
  • Attract the most ambitious and committed candidates

Learn the ins and outs of our frontline career development programs or request a demo today.

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